FIVE BME students awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and 2 Honorable Mentions

NSF AwardeesCongratulations to BME’s five outstanding students who were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship! These fellowships recognize and support exceptional graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

We are so proud of our students being honored with this prestigious award! 

EdgarEdgar Cubillo is an incoming Ph.D. student and is currently finishing up his semester of undergraduate studies at California State University, Long Beach. During his undergraduate career, he researched two projects. In his first lab, Cubillo was under the supervision of Dr. David Stout and investigated mice’ islet functionality and viability when encapsulated with various alginates. Currently, he is under the supervision of Dr. Perla Ayala where his research focus is on functionalizing decellularized tissue and collagen scaffolds with methacrylate groups to dynamically tune the mechanical properties of 3D microenvironments for the development of accurate models of cardiac fibrosis in which mechanistic studies can be performed. Cubillo further investigates the role of stiffness and composition on fibroblast function in a 3-D model. 

DanielDaniel El Basha graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering at UF in 2018. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Medical Physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. His research project will be on using machine learning to automate radiation treatment planning for prostate cancer patients. 

As an undergraduate BME student at UF, El Basha worked both with Dr. Ruogu Fang and Dr. Wesley Bolch. His research focus was on developing a computational eye model for dosimetric studies on the efficacy of stereotactic radiotherapy for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). His work in Dr. Fang’s lab was to aid in developing deep learning models to reduce noise in medical images as well as assessing the brain’s radiation dose during CT scans for understanding the level of radiation dose reduction possible through the implementation of deep learning models. 

WisamWisam Fares received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2018 and focused on working with primary pancreatic cancer cells on hydrogel substrates. During his time at UF, he worked on a modification for Winter the Dolphin’s tail prosthetic that focuses on changing the angle of the prosthetic and a microwave-based motion detector to monitor the circadian rhythm in mice. Fares is pursuing a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia Biomedical Engineering program in the Janes Lab. 


DavidDavid Hall is a first-year biomedical engineering Ph.D. student in Dr. Jon Dobson’s and Dr. Kevin Otto’s laboratories. His research focuses on utilizing functionalized magnetic nanoparticles to create a novel method for neuromodulation. David obtained his B.S. in biomedical engineering with highest honors from The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he worked with Dr. Gabriela Romero Uribe in the Macromolecular Bio-Interfaces Lab.


Elisa Nieves is a fourth-year undergraduate biomedical engineering student in Dr. Christine Schmidt’s lab. Her primary research focus is on the assessment and optimization of decellularized tissue scaffolds using heart, lung, and sciatic nerve tissues. Elisa Nieves will begin her Ph.D. at Georgia Institute of Technology this fall. 



The NSF accords Honorable Mention to meritorious applicants who do not receive Fellowship awards. This is considered a significant national academic achievement.

AlexaAlexa Avecilla received her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at UF in 2018 and is currently a Ph.D. student at Georgia Tech. 




Alexander LimAlexander Lim is a first-year Ph.D. student, affiliated with Dr. Christine Schmidt and Dr. Kevin Otto’s labs.  He works on the collaborative tissue-engineered electrode nerve interface (TEENI) project with aims for less-invasive alternatives for functional restoration.